An intermezzo

by Jess

Before I jump into the novels I mentioned in my last post, I have two things to mention. Firstly, I have a short nonfiction piece up at Liturgial Credo, where I also contribute my talents, such as they are, as fiction editor. Check it out.

Secondly, I just finished Nabokov’s Pnin, and I don’t get it! Can somebody help me out here? It seems to relate a string of events that happen to dear Professor Pnin, and then he drives off into the sunset. But I’m left wondering where the story was. David Lodge writes in The Guardian that “the stories describe a continuous narrative arc, poignantly tracing Pnin’s quest, which is ultimately frustrated, to find a home, or to make himself ‘at home’ in alien Waindell,” but I didn’t get a very strong sense of quest. (Although now, the word quest draws a strong association in my mind between Pnin and Don Quixote.) Everyone seems to agree that it’s a comedy, but I found it only very mildly so. I’m sure I just didn’t get the jokes.

Lodge continues: “Novel of character, roman à clef, campus novel, epiphanic short story, postmodernist metafiction – Pnin contains elements of all these fictional subgenres, but ultimately it is sui generis, uniquely and quintessentially Nabokovian, having a family resemblance to his other works without being exactly like any of them.” Perhaps this is the cause of my consternation: I can’t quite pin down what this book is supposed to be because it’s so many things at once.

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